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Gillian Seagret doesn't listen to people who say her father's a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he's right and plans to prove it.
When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg's diary in her father's mess of an office, she thinks she's found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg's greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth,.
But they aren't alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad's reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg's secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
I’m sure that everyone is well aware that the Middle Grade demographic has a lot of adventure books. We have Rick Riordan for example, or the Seven Wonders series by Peter Larangis, and it feels like a new one pops out every year, all following a bunch of kids try to save the world or solve an extremely old riddle that would lead to a secret civilization or something. I love that kind of premise (National Treasure, anybody? That one with Nicolas Cage? I watched that countless times!) but time and time again, the said adventure books failed to amuse or entertain me. I just can’t find myself enjoying any of them. I tried, but every time, I failed to read beyond 20%. Oftentimes, I’d find the writing too poor, or too young, or too forced.
Then, like an angel wrapped in a blinding light, Diana Peterfreund appeared from the heavens and graced me with Omega City, which may now be my most favorite Middle Grade Adventure book ever, ever, ever, ever.
I’m serious. I love it so, so, so much. First chapter in and I fell hook, line, and sinker.
It’s funny, and not in a manner that feels forced or trying-to-sound-young-yet-failing-miserably. The main characters are 12 year olds (with an addition of an 11th grader) and they really do sound like young kids that are curious and reckless, caring about twelve-year-old things and making jokes that are relevant if you’re from that generation. I loved how the humor was so genuine and real. I read the dialogue and could see myself as them when I was their age. I try to remember any other author who impressed me with their writing of a kid, but try to rack my brain as I may, I could remember none who are even half as real as Peterfreund’s.
“Can we please stop talking about dead bodies and guns and underground monsters?” Eric said. He was swinging his flashlight at every shadow in the room. “Just in general?”
“So it’s fine for a video game but not in real life?” Savannah asked.
“Yes!” Eric shook his head at her, incredulous. “In real life you don’t get to press reset.”
This only goes to show how great of an author Peterfreund is. I absolutely adored her YA books For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across the Dark-Swept Sea, so I really expected a lot from her. I admit that I was scared she wouldn’t be able to effectively write a child’s carefree personality, but Omega City proved me wrong and even went beyond what I could ever hope for.
Imagine, in this book there are siblings Gillian and Eric, and Peterfreund was able to weave their sibling interaction so fantastically, with a dose of humour every now and then, making the two so endearing and lovable. I absolutely loved how despite being so different, their bond with each other would just glow within the pages. Their conversations were just so awesomely-done that I found myself smiling at almost all of them, because they reminded me how my little brother and I are with each other. Their arguments, casual banters, and protectiveness of one another were simply so captivating. In fact, when I started reading, the first thing I noticed was how their interaction was so realistically-done. I am serious in saying this is probably one of the book’s highlights, because it simply stands out.
“Nope.” I tapped the page. “The scan is date-stamped. Date-stamped last month. Which means that this diary wasn’t destroyed in the flood. Maybe none of Dad’s notes were. Maybe that pipe in the wall didn’t even burst.”
“Don’t joke about that,” said Eric. “I lost my comic book collection and my Playstation in that flood.”
The sibling’s dynamics with the other characters were equally awesome, too! Like Gillian and Eric, they also felt real to me, written in a way that they feel like genuine kids (something other MG adventure books never made me feel about their characters).
“Is this our pizza? Tomato, cheese, and sesame chicken?”
Savannah cocked her head to the side. ” I don’t think that’s what you’re supposed to say.”
Private Pizza rolled his eyes. “Come on, kid.”
“I think,” Savannah went on coyly, “that if you don’t say it, we get it free.”
He sighed, straightened, and licked his heels together. “I present to you, lovely maiden, this golden disk of the seven heavens, baked by the flame of four noble dragons.” He bowed his head over the pizza box and held it out.
There’s Howard, a strange kid in the same grade, who’s obsessed with anything space-related. He’s a quiet guy, but blabbers nonstop when asked about his favorite topics (which often results to hilarious “Uh, here we go again!” thoughts). There’s Savannah, Gillian’s best friend, who is a smart cookie, but masks it all in an airhead-like aura to make herself more popular in school. She’s an amazing side-kick to Gillian, always game to support her in her endeavors even if they seem far-fetched. She also has a crush on Nate, an 11th grader who works as a pizza delivery guy. He’s Howard’s brother and acts as their chaperone and is probably the most regrettful of the group when they find themselves in an adventure they’d never forget. Seriously, I love them all, too. Different personalities, and yet they all mash together really well.
“Nate,” Howard protested, turning to his brother. “You promised.”
Nate’s expression was unreadable, but he stared at his brother for a full two seconds. Howard, surprisingly, stared back. Right away, Nate’s expression softened. “Okay. But you guys have to swear you’ll do exactly as I say.”
We all nodded.
“And that the second I say we’re going home, we go home.”
We all nodded again.
He sighed. “I’m going to regret this. I knew as soon as you two girls showed up at the door I was going to regret this. Get in.”
As for the adventure itself, all I can say is: WOW. That was one of the most awesome adventures I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It had mystery, drama, history, and science fiction mixed, resulting to a formula that this book may have just redefined. We don’t see no Atlantis being discovered, or any lost wonder revealed, but we get an awesome conspiracy thing going on behind the scenes, all derived from a riddle from the diary of who was deemed a crazy scientist back during the Cold War. I don’t really want to spoil anything, but I can certainly assure you that it’s something that will excite you, blow your minds away, and make you wonder of the endless possibilities we as a civilization could have obtained if we were not clouded by greed, if we did not hinder progression for the sake of achieving our own selfish agendas. It will make you think back, and wonder, and wonder, and wonder.
And that, my friends, is its beauty.
All in all, hats off to Diana Peterfreund. She made an MG adventure story that even I could appreciate and love, and created a cast of characters so easy to relate to and hold dear to your heart. This is how adventure books should be, folks. This is how they should be.
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